Bills to create a new method of execution in Maryland and speed up imposition of the death penalty were defeated yesterday by a House panel.
The Judiciary Committee narrowly rejected a measure that would substitute lethal injection for the gas chamber. And it easily defeated six bills that would limit the types of death penalty appeals and require court personnel to meet stringent ,, deadlines on capital cases.
Though the measures had passed the Senate, yesterday's action means that death penalty issues are finished for this session. But a commission appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer is looking into the very concerns raised by those bills.
Switching to lethal injection is more humane and a way to prevent lawsuits, state officials told legislators. Other states have been sued on grounds that the gas chamber is cruel and unusual punishment.
The committee voted 12-11 against the lethal injection measure.
Del. Leon G. Billings, a Montgomery Democrat, opposed the bill, saying he didn't think economy was a rationale for the state's continuing to kill people.
"Lethal injection is a much more humane way of administering the death penalty," said one supporter, Del. John S. Morgan, a Howard Republican.
Del. Gilbert J. Genn, a Montgomery Democrat who opposed the measure, tried to tack on amendments that would require executions to be carried out on either the State House grounds or at the Maryland Penitentiary. Another amendment would have mandated televised coverage.
"I don't think the policy of inflicting death should be antiseptic," said Mr. Genn. But the amendments never reached a vote, because Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a Prince George's Democrat, first called for a vote on the bill itself.
Lawmakers and some state officials have pressed for a speedy resolution to death penalty cases. There are 13 murderers on death row, and officials say the first execution since 1961 is still at least two years away.